Bangalore: Skipper Virat Kohli gave Royal Challengers Bangalore the high they needed to set their engine in motion in IPL 6, but in defending champions Kolkata Knight Riders they face a team on Thursday that can match Bangalore's star power man for man.
Bangalore were a little hurt losing to Sunrisers Hyderabad in the Super Over and avenged that defeat in style in the return match on Tuesday as Kohli's blistering 93 not out off 47 balls made a mockery of the 162-run target, which they achieved with more than two overs to spare.
But what must have added to Bangalore's growing confidence is that they scored that big win without significant contribution from Chris Gayle, who made just 13. That must lift the morale of a team that has been time and again called to be dependent on Gayle.
The return of AB de Villiers has also added to RCB's batting power, though the South African perished after scoring just 15 on Tuesday. Mayank Agarwal looks good as well at the top with Gayle, with Moises Henriques filling the allrounder's spot in the middle, followed by wicketkeeper-batsman Arun Karthik. In short, no change expected on the batting front, with Tillakaratne Dilshan expected to sit out once again.
The RCB batsmen, though, will have to contend with the mystery spin of Sunil Narine, who remains unread so far in the tournament. Bangalore would like to keep him away from wickets and should settle for three to four runs an over from his spell.
RP Singh returned to RCB's line-up on Tuesday in style with his spell of 3 for 27. That evened out Vinay Kumar's off day at the office when he leaked 43 runs for his one wicket in four overs against Hyderabad, but he remains their top performer having bowled well in the previous two matches. Jaydev Unadkat, surprisingly, has bowled well to help RCB cope with Zaheer Khan's absence.
The two Muralis in the RCB side - Muttiah Muralitharan and Murali Kartik - are running the spin business well, with both applying brakes in the middle overs and proving difficult to get away. On the whole, RCB are not expected to change their Tuesday's winning combination.
KRR have landed in Bangalore taking a slightly different route, having lost to Rajasthan Royals after winning the first match against Delhi Daredevils. Their batting caved in chasing 145 against Rajasthan, and Gautam Gambhir will expect his batsmen to put that failure behind and get back to scoring ways.
Kolkata have problems at the top with opening partnerships of 5 and 19. Manvinder Bisla hasn't looked anywhere near his form last season. Though Gambhir has looked good in his knocks of 41 and 22, he would like to kick on for a big one. Jacques Kallis, Manoj Tiwary and Yusuf Pathan aren't at their best yet, with Eoin Morgan's half-century in the last match the only bright spot in the middle order.
Brett Lee and Narine will once again be Kolkata's chief wicket-taking hopes. Rajat Bhatia's seam-up variation has proved very effective, with the batsmen often falling in attempts to force pace when none is available. Gambhir replaced L Balaji with Shami Ahmed in the last match but is expected to bring the experienced Balaji back considering Bangalore's batting might.
Royal Challengers Bangalore: 1 Mayank Agarwal, 2 Chris Gayle, 3 Virat Kohli (capt), 4 AB de Villiers, 5 Moises Henriques, 6 Arun Karthik (wk), 7 Vinay Kumar, 8 Murali Kartik, 9 Jaidev Unadkat, 10 RP Singh, 11 Muttiah Muralitharan
Kolkata Knight Riders: 1 Manvinder Bisla (wk), 2 Gautam Gambhir (capt), 3 Jacques Kallis, 4 Manoj Tiwary, 5 Eoin Morgan, 6 Yusuf Pathan, 7 Laxmi Ratan Shukla, 8 Rajat Bhatia, 9 Brett Lee, 10 L Balaji, 11 Sunil Narine
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